London 2012: Hits and Misses

London 2012: Hits and Misses
Velodrome by Hopkins Architects

A look at the architecture and design from the London Olympics that made headlines, includingAnish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond’s Orbit, Hopkins Architects’ Velodrome and Thomas Heatherwick’s cauldron.

Velodrome by Hopkins Architects

While some speculate that the Olympic Stadium, designed by Populous, will nab the 2012 Stirling Prize in October, Hopkins’ pringle-shaped Velodrome remains the star of this summer’s games. It’s the combination of stunning form and sustainable construction and operation that makes this venue a hit. Steel-framed and clad entirely in locally sourced FSC timber, the home to the indoor cycling track features a glazed concourse and two tiers of seating. Sustainable measures include passive cooling and a grey water system.

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ArcelorMittal Orbit by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond

Guests entering Olympic Park were baffled by the 115-metre-tall tower. Designed by Anish Kapoor and structural engineer Cecil Balmond, the functional sculpture received a cool reception that included comparisons to rollercoasters and hookahs. One of the game’s permanent structures, it’s made from 560 metres of red tubular steel and features an observation deck (spectators are encouraged to exit via the 400-plus spiraling stairs). It’s a daring engineering feat but it’s a far cry from Kapoor’s seamless and refined public art pieces.

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Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid

Hadid came under heavy fire when Olympic officials began offering refunds to spectators watching – and, to some degree, not being able to see – the diving and swimming competitions in her 8,000-capacity stingray-like structure. Many blamed the undulating roof (sculptural, gravity-defying and huge: signature Hadid) for blocking the views of the 10-metre diving board. Hadid’s office denied the existence of a design flaw, saying that the firm delivered a stadium with 5,000 uninterrupted views, just as it was asked to do.

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Oscar Pistorius’ prosthetic legs

Dubbed the Blade Runner, the South African sprinter – and double amputee – raised eyebrows when he qualified for the 400-metre race. Donning the Flex-Foot Cheetah prosthetic legs, created by Össur, he was targeted by critics who postulated that the lightweight prostheses gave him an unfair advantage. Made of carbon fibre, the J-shaped legs are also fitted with shock-absorbing spike pads specially developed for Pistorius by Nike. Pistorius’s qualification opens the door for devlopment of high-tech innovations in sports gear, as well as a new debate over performance-enhancers.

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5. Olympic cauldron by Thomas Heatherwick

Not only was the design for this Olympic icon top secret, but the final piece was almost impossible to catch a glimpse of. (The Vancouver winter games in 2010 made a similar blunder by surrounding the flames with a chainlink fence). Still, it was a hit. Made from 204 copper petals – representing each participating country – attached to long poles, it was lit by British Olympians and drawn up to form an 8.5-metre-tall cylinder topped with a single massive flame.

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London 2012 logo

Instantly dismissed at its 2007 unveiling, the dense geometric logo based on the date 2012, was an undeniable eyesore. Designed by Wolff Ollins, who has also worked with GE, Target and (Red), the emblem was also turned into an animation that allegedly caused seizuring. According to Unbeige, organizers for Rio’s 2016 games took note – its sans serif logo is simple and easy to read.

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